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Court Politics: The Political Economy of Tort Awards

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Author Info

  • Tabarrok, Alexander
  • Helland, Eric

Abstract

We investigate the forces that explain why trial awards differ across the United States. In 23 states judges are elected and in 10 they are elected via partisan elections. Elections have two important effects. First, defendants are often out-of-state nonvoters while plaintiffs are typically in-state voters. We predict, therefore, that elected judges will redistribute wealth from out-of-state businesses to in-state plaintiffs. Second, the realities of campaign financing require judges to seek and accept campaign funding from trial lawyers, who uniformly are interested in larger awards. We hypothesize that these two forces cause awards to be larger in states where the judiciary is elected rather than appointed. We also hypothesize that the demand for redistribution will increase as poverty increases and, thus, that awards will be larger in states with greater poverty. Using a sample of over 7,000 cases across 48 of the 50 states, we find significant evidence in support of these hypotheses. Copyright 1999 by the University of Chicago.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by University of Chicago Press in its journal Journal of Law & Economics.

Volume (Year): 42 (1999)
Issue (Month): 1 (April)
Pages: 157-88

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Handle: RePEc:ucp:jlawec:v:42:y:1999:i:1:p:157-88

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Web page: http://www.journals.uchicago.edu/JLE/

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Cited by:
  1. Claire S.H. Lim & James M. Snyder, Jr., 2012. "Elections and the Quality of Public Officials: Evidence from U.S. State Courts," NBER Working Papers 18355, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Jack Hirshleifer & Evan Osborne, 1999. "Truth and the Legal Battle," UCLA Economics Working Papers 790, UCLA Department of Economics.
  3. Cohen, Mark A. & Miller, Ted R., 2003. ""Willingness to award" nonmonetary damages and the implied value of life from jury awards," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 23(2), pages 165-181, June.
  4. Eric Helland & Alexander Taberrok, . "The Effect of Electoral Institutions on Tort Awards," Claremont Colleges Working Papers 1999-07, Claremont Colleges.
  5. Daniel P. Kessler & Daniel L. Rubinfeld, 2004. "Empirical Study of the Civil Justice System," NBER Working Papers 10825, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Eric Helland & Alexander Tabarrok, . "Race, Poverty, and American Tort Awards: Evidence from Three Datasets," Claremont Colleges Working Papers 2002-29, Claremont Colleges.
  7. Claire Lim, 2009. "Turnover and Accountability of Appointed and Elected Judges," 2009 Meeting Papers 190, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  8. B. Arruñada & M. Casari, 2007. "How enforcement institutions affect markets," Working Papers 616, Dipartimento Scienze Economiche, Universita' di Bologna.
  9. Paul Rubin, 2005. "Public choice and tort reform," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 124(1), pages 223-236, July.
  10. F. Andrew Hanssen, 2004. "Is There a Politically Optimal Level of Judicial Independence?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(3), pages 712-729, June.
  11. Frenzen, Paul D. & Buzby, Jean C. & Rasco, Barbara, 2001. "Product Liability And Microbial Foodborne Illness," Agricultural Economics Reports 34059, United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service.
  12. James M. Snyder & David Stromberg & Claire S.H. Lim, 2010. "Measuring Media Influence on U.S. State Courts," 2010 Meeting Papers 1193, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  13. Adriana Cordis, 2009. "Judicial checks on corruption in the United States," Economics of Governance, Springer, vol. 10(4), pages 375-401, November.

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